Mail Call


Heidi Wiersma, Peace Corps Volunteer

BP 541

Cyangugu, Rwanda

Below is information taken straight from my lovely fellow trainee Christine. She said it so well I figured why reinvent the wheel?


  1. PACK IT: If it can fit in a padded envelope, use it. I’ll get it sooner and it’s less likely to be inspected/taxed. If you’re using a box, USPS standard/prepaid boxes are best and cheapest. FedEx, UPS, DHL are very pricey and Express Mail is never express.
  2. TAPE IT: To quote a current PCV in Kenya, use as much tape as you think you would need if you were planning to drop-kick it into a pile of land mines. Now double that.
  3. ADDRESS IT: Red ink is official, so if you have a red marker/pen on hand, use it! Make sure you print clearly. Write “AIR MAIL” or “PAR AVION” on the package to help speed up the process.
  4. PROTECT IT: God is good. Draw crosses, write Bible verses or messages such as “Jesus is watching” and “Jesus loves you” all over the package/tape. To discourage sticky fingers during inspection by postal workers, anything religious will help.
  5. DECLARE IT: Use your best judgement, keep it short and sweet. Do not write thing such as “CANDY”, “DVDs”, “CHOCOLATE” or “CLOTHES” on the customs slip, as this will almost guarantee my package will be “inspected”. If you feel comfortable telling a white lie, write things such as “RELIGIOUS MATERIALS”, “BIBLES” or “TEACHING MATERIALS”. If this makes you uncomfortable, preface items with the word “used” as much as possible…”USED BOOKS”, “USED CLOTHES”, etc. I’ve been told that “WOMEN’S HYGIENE” works, too. Declare the value of the package as $10 or less, possibly even $0.


  • If you’d like to send a postcard, please place it inside an envelope. Apparently, the allure of exotic images is often too much for post office employees to resist and it may end up decorating someone’s wall rather than be delivered to me.
  • Number all letters and packages, as they may come out of order. If sending a package, you can also include an itemized list to further discourage sticky fingers.
  • Many volunteers pass off their letters to travelers or visiting family/friends to mail back once in the States to help ensure our letters actually make it to ya. If you get a letter postmarked from the U.S. I promise it’s really from me/Rwanda!
  • We’ve been told that letters usually take 2-4 weeks to arrive, whereas packages may take a month or two. Rest assured, most letters and packages arrive here eventually.

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